Washington: The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday allowed the Trump administration’s restrictions on transgender service members.
The order lifts an injunction that had been put in place and upheld by the lower court.
However, the ruling has no immediate effect, as orders in three other cases still block the policy’s enforcement.
Trump announced over Twitter in July 2017 that he intended to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.
Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum [text] banning transgender individuals from entering the military in August 2017. In November the administration asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue.
Four lawsuits were filed against the ban, and lower courts in all four cases had blocked the policy from taking effect as the suits work their way through the legal system.
In March, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis released an implementation plan for Trump’s policy that would allow transgender people to serve if they do so in their biological sex.
The Trump administration then asked courts to dissolve their injunctions, arguing the Mattis plan is not a blanket ban on transgender people.
On Friday, the appeals court panel ruled that District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly made a “clear error” in deciding that the injunction should stay in place because the Mattis plan was no different from Trump’s policy.
The appeals court said Mattis’s plan was not “foreordained” by Trump because it took into account a panel of military and medical experts, evidence from the implementation of the open service policy and “a reassessment of the priorities of the group that produced” the open service policy.
The appeals court also agreed with the administration that the Mattis plan is not a blanket ban.
“Although the Mattis Plan continues to bar many transgender persons from joining or serving in the military, the record indicates that the plan allows some transgender persons barred under the military’s standards prior to the [open service policy] to join and serve in the military,” the judges wrote.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, vowed to keep fighting the ban.
“Today’s ruling is a devastating slap in the face to transgender service members who have proved their fitness to serve and their dedication to this country,” NCLR legal director Shannon Minter said in a statement. “We will keep fighting this cruel and irrational policy, which serves no purpose other than to weaken the military and punish transgender service members for their patriotism and service.”
The Department of Justice also previously asked the Supreme Court to wade into the legal dispute before any appeals court had reviewed the issue. In leapfrogging regular judicial order, Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the justices in November to hear its appeal of the district court rulings against the ban this term.
Three weeks later, Francisco then went back to the court seeking an emergency order that would allow the ban to take effect while the cases are being litigated.